Arts and Culture: an antidote to growing concerns over young people’s wellbeing

The Better Lives Through Culture programme launched in 2021, aiming to create better lives for children and young people through culture.  

At the time, children‚Äôs mental health was worsening. Confidence was low and inequalities were widening. We knew arts and culture could help. The need to widen access to cultural education felt urgent so, as a Cultural Education Partnership, we embraced that mission. 

Two years on, as concerns over wellbeing continue to grow, the evaluation and film of Better Lives Through Culture offer hope.

Better Lives through Culture Film by City Eye

Better Lives through Culture

Better Lives Through Culture aimed to enable children and young people, who weren’t participating in arts and culture, to access cultural education.  

It consisted of a Creative Curriculum project and a Creative Mentors project, both co-designed with young people. The two projects involved 325 children and young people, 40 teachers, 4 artists and 6 early career creatives.  

The programme, delivered in partnership with Artswork with Bridge Investment funding from Arts Council England, has delivered ‚Äúlife-changing‚ÄĚ results. 

‚ÄúMy whole life has changed. I went from working one day a week in an art gallery. Now I‚Äôm working full time in a school that specialises in autism.‚ÄĚ

Creative Mentor

Cultural Curriculum

Students worked with local artists to develop Creative Curriculums, offering new ways to learn different subjects.  

Banister Primary School explored Geography and Science curriculum through dance and movement. Oasis Academy Lord’s Hill collaborated with a writer to address literacy and oracy within Art and Design. Cantell School added music to the English curriculum, while Woodlands Community College introduced a multi-artform approach to History. 

“There has been a turnaround in the children’s confidence in wanting to have a go and be involved and to share.”

Banister School SLT Teacher

Teachers reported increased confidence, engagement and teamwork for all pupils. Learning benefits included improved retrieval for Primary pupils and access to learning for children with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND). 

“Linking movements to vocabulary is really helping them to secure that language.”

Banister School SLT Teacher

Teachers have learnt new ways to work with their pupils that improve access for students with SEND. Primary age SEND students who normally cannot demonstrate the vocabulary they know through writing have been able to show their knowledge through movement. When studying butterflies, students could flutter like a butterfly or act out a life cycle when they could not write the terms. Teachers reflected it gave them a different way to support the students to be successful.‚ÄĮ‚ÄĮ 

“Most importantly, the children are enjoying the sessions. They are excited to be having an input in the planning process and those who are usually reluctant to answer and share are more willing to since these sessions, which is fantastic!”

Banister School Teacher

Creative Mentors

As part of the programme, Early Career Creatives also took part in mentoring training. Equipped with new skills they then mentored young people from Cantell School.  

The project nurtured creative talent across the city and helped shape career pathways for mentors and mentees. The young people who were mentored described how the process had helped them improve their knowledge of careers in the arts. 

The future

With the number of young people affected by poor mental health predicted to continue rising, galvanising cross-sector expertise to address wellbeing is vital.  

Better Lives Through Culture has shown the important role arts and culture can play in building confidence and enjoyment, enhancing learning, and equipping young people with skills for the future.  

Southampton Cultural Education Partnership is passionate about continuing to nurture creative and cultural education for all children and young people in the city. We are proud to have worked with so many Southampton students and artists. 135 have achieved Arts Awards in the process.  

With your help, there is so much more we can do to achieve better lives through culture.  

Thank you to

Our partners and funders: Artswork, Arts Council England, Artsmark, Arts Award, University of Southampton 

Artists and Organisations: Abi Thommes and Arts2Educate, Louis Duarte and SoCoMusic Project, Natalie Watson, Susmita Bhattacharya and ArtfulScribe 

Schools and Colleges: Banister Primary School, Cantell School, Oasis Academy Lord’s Hill and Woodlands Community College 

Creative Mentors: Issa Loyaan Farrah-Kelly, JJ Gale, Jilly Evans, Ellen Gillett, Aidan and Amy Spencer 

And all the brilliant young people who took part in Better Lives Through Culture. 

SCEP SPOLIGHT: News from the University of Southampton’s Connecting Culture project

A student at Mount Pleasant Junior School in Bevois, Southampton, with their Arts Award Discover certificate 


Today we are spotlighting the¬†Connecting Culture¬†research project, led by the Arts and Culture team at University of Southampton and supported by Arts Council England. The project has recently reached the end of its ambitious ‚ÄėCreative Consultation‚Äô programme of artist-led creative workshops held with children and young people in Southampton.¬†With children at the heart, the research explores the question of how Southampton‚Äôs thriving Cultural Quarter can enrich their lives as a future creative hub.¬†¬†

A total of 25 workshops took place at 15 schools and youth settings across the city, with around 600 of Southampton‚Äôs young people taking part. All participants earned themselves an Arts Award Discover certificate for their efforts and, at a special presentation at Mount Pleasant Junior School, certificates were awarded to around 70 of their year 6 students.

Continue reading SCEP SPOLIGHT: News from the University of Southampton’s Connecting Culture project

SCEP SPOTLIGHT: University of Southampton’s Activity Pack Scheme

In this SCEP SPOTLIGHT post, we take a look at the Activity Pack scheme run by SCEP member University of Southampton.

Within just over a year, the Activity Pack scheme from University of Southampton transformed from a 2,500-pack initiative meant to address the digital divide exacerbated by the first COVID-19 lockdown (which saw families with limited or no access to the internet or suitable devices further disadvantaged), into a project that has distributed a further 18,000 packs nationally via schools, charities, and youth organisations.

Continue reading SCEP SPOTLIGHT: University of Southampton’s Activity Pack Scheme

SCEP SPOTLIGHT: Liam Gifford and The Nuffield Collective

By Paige Michel-Strachan

In our next SCEP SPOTLIGHT post, we‚Äôre profiling SCEP member Liam Gifford and his work with The Nuffield Collective. Our SCEP SPOTLIGHT series sheds light on the diverse membership of the Southampton Cultural Education Partnership (SCEP) and the brilliant work they do.

Liam Gifford is a theatre-maker, qualified teacher and engagement professional who specialises in leading community projects and directing plays with and for theatre-makers of all ages and backgrounds at all levels. He studied at Dartington College of Arts where he gained an honours degree in Theatre, and then later achieved a PGCE qualification in Drama at Aberystwyth University. Now, Liam plays an important role in leading and mentoring The Nuffield Collective.

Continue reading SCEP SPOTLIGHT: Liam Gifford and The Nuffield Collective

SCEP SPOTLIGHT: SoCo Music Project and Sounds of Southampton Vol. 1

By Paige Michel Strachan

Welcome to our brand-new series, SCEP SPOTLIGHT, in which we will be shedding light on the diverse membership of the Southampton Cultural Education Partnership (or SCEP) and the brilliant work they do. Our members are organisations and individuals who have create positive change in Southampton, making arts and creativity accessible for children and young people.

First up on SCEP SPOTLIGHT, we will be profiling SCEP member SoCo Music Project. SoCo is a national charity investing in music-making projects which support children and young people aged 0-25 to develop personally and socially as well as musically. They particularly work with those who do not have the opportunity to make music because of their circumstances, where they live, or what they’re going through.

Continue reading SCEP SPOTLIGHT: SoCo Music Project and Sounds of Southampton Vol. 1